Travel Log Day 3: Atlas At Last

Well, it was a waste. You’d think I’d be acclimated jet lag-wise, right?

Opposite. I spent quite a bit of the night composing and practicing quietly, and the next day I took a “nap” at noon and woke up around 5:30 pm, which was the exact time I was supposed to be at the meet ‘n greet.

Ugh.

So I took a quick rinse in the shower and ran myself over there. I got there by 6. Atlas is amazing! Everyone was so kind and seemed genuinely happy to meet each other. I am going with the idea that they were very happy to see me!

We met in a room on the second floor, and I spoke with various people. When enough people arrived we sat and did formal introductions, which I have mixed feelings about. I mean, yes — we need to do them, but I wonder if there are stats on how much we remember about names, schools, and even whether or not we’ve met them before.

The intros were going lovely. Everyone at Atlas is so lovely and incredibly talented, accomplished, clever — I mean, each of these people is a true diamond, a true gem. Eventually it gets to me and I say, “Hold on, this is really exciting!” I then go on to tell them a story about the inspiration behind the composition for my music for Atlas. Do you want to hear the story? Yes? Great! I was going to tell you anyway.

So there I was, exhausted and sprawled out on Marc Bannin’s chairs. I guess we had been sitting there a little while because I became aware of his dog, Blue, drinking his water. Now most of the time, this background noise is just that, as we decide important things like where we’re going, what we’re eating, etc. We were doing exactly that when I gestured to Marc to be quiet, and then we both studied Blue and I said, “Marc, do you know your dog drinks in 7/8?” We laughed but then I said, “No, seriously.”

When Blue returned, which he did often because it was hot, we listened and I counted it for him: 1212123 1212123 1212123 1212123. After four times through, he’d change it up.

Then I noticed Blue would purposely also drink in 12/8, but no no, not that nice easy 123 123 123 123.

Nope. Blue rocked it like this: 12 12 123 12 123.

(Oh, wow. It didn’t take this long to explain the story to the Atlas crowd. I feel like I just lost a few readers. Quick, keyboard, zap your readers. ZAP ZAP ZAP.)

So anyway, the dog drinks in odd meters and I decided to allow that to be my inspiration.


One of the things I wanted to do was be an unabashed American in coming to Atlas. I mean, the whole point is to come as you are and we find a way to make it work. Well, I’m American.

I’m going to do something American all over that stage, but what, pray tell, was I going to do?

BAM!

BAMMMM BAM BAMBIDDY BAM BAM!

I’m doing a minor twelve-bar blues.

Nothing more American than the blues, and I doubt any music style has had more impact on the world.

I needed, however, to put my own personal stamp on it. So I made it a minor blues. Then the turnaround was going to have the 12/8 measures in it, just like how Blue likes to put 12/8 towards the end of the form.

The blues is an American musical art form. It refers to a twelve-measure form. There are very specific rules to the blues. Typically they are in a major key and identified by a dominant 7 chord feel.

Minor blues are much less popular. One of the most famous examples of the minor blues is “Equinox” by John Coltrane. It is also my favorite example!

Remember how I said there were very specific rules? Well, the last four measures of the blues are called the turnaround because they are turning you back to the beginning. I never really understood why it was called a turnaround, personally, because what is the other choice? There is no other choice. We are just repeating what we did. I always thought there could be a better term, but never coined one.

Okay, so the turnaround for the song that I wrote is where the 12/8 measures show up.

I figured for musicians — if I was going to make a piece in 7/8 and add 12 — it would be best to put it somewhere where the musicians are naturally going to feel it. So I put it in the turnaround. Do you want to know if it worked?

So do I! We’ll find out together on Monday. Are you scared? Like, what if it doesn’t work, Colin? What if that was a terrible idea, Colin? What if you should have changed nothing and left it all in 7? That would have been weird, it would have honored blue, it would have been a blues…

To that I say…puh-leez! Do you want to live your life with the safety always on? Okay, bad example. Always keep the safety on. Please, don’t shoot me.

Let me try that again.

To that I say…ugh, ew. Why live life doing the minimal? Why live life without chance? I didn’t know what would happen when I applied to Atlas, and they took a chance on me and said, “Yes! We want this guy!”

So what? I say, thanks for putting your faith in me. I will absolutely not experiment and try something crazy.

I would be dishonoring them if I played it safe. I’d bore my musicians.

So, you have a minor blues in 7. Yawn. Next.

No, man, this is crazy! Plus, it is exactly how Blue drinks his water!

I love Blue. Now, you may be wondering, “Colin, Blue is not your dog. Why do you love him?”

To this I say…sit back and listen.

The reason I visited Marc (Blue’s owner) was two-fold. I know, I know. I use fancy terms like fold when I’m not talking about laundry. The first (and supposed main) reason was for my high school’s twenty-year reunion. Yes, okay, I’m old. The second reason (which is really the main reason) was to visit the site where my brother’s ashes had been dispersed almost a year earlier.

So when I went to Mt. Hope Cemetery in the ROC, Marc took me with Blue. I wore sunglasses to look badass…er, to keep the sun out of my face, and, well, you know, just in case I was to get upset. We wouldn’t want my mascara to run, right?

It was a beautiful day. Mt. Hope is a beautiful area. I brought my Native American flutes with me and Marc left me alone for a bit. Then Blue noticed I was upset. So as only a dog can, Blue gave me the best hug ever. He sat there and allowed me to hug him as long as we both needed.

So the title of the track is “The Solace of Blue.” He’s a great dog. He’s old. He’s badass. He drinks his water in 7/8!


Well, that was the worst bit of digression ever. All that to say:

We met on the second floor. We introduced ourselves. I told a story about a dog. Other people didn’t. We drank tea and coffee. I drank mine black. We then all went home.

Love you all,

Colin